Close to three years since he took over at the helm of Centenary Bank, Mr Fabian Kasi now belongs to the new crop of emerging indigenous corporate leaders in Uganda.
His rise and others in his clique has been a critical pointer of progressive growth for Uganda’s private sector and the economy at large.
Over time, countries like Kenya have had a competitive advantage over Uganda in sectors including hospitality; however, the current trend shows that Ugandans are not just looking on.
According to Mr Kasi, institutions like the Institute of Corporate Governance of Uganda, Private Sector Foundation Uganda, Uganda Investment Authority and Capital Markets Authority among others have been supportive in the growth of indigenous corporate leaders and as he says: “The stereotype that foreign managers are better than Ugandans will soon be no more.”
“Ugandans are equally good...for instance, four banks in the country are headed by Ugandans,” Mr Kasi counters the general perception of foreign managers being better than Ugandans.
Local Investment key to economic growth
On the notion that ‘investor’ is synonymous with foreigner, the seasoned banker and financial expert holds that local investment is very crucial to the economy.
‘We need investors with a local flavour, who will keep their wealth here, people with national concerns....foreign investors come with specific targets and goals, to expatriate the earning they make here,’ he adds.
Evolution of banking and Centenary Bank
Mr Kasi argues that Uganda’s banking industry is mostly foreign dominated because of historical factors that have lived with the country’s corporate world before and after independence.
However, he says the entry of indigenous banks including Centenary will slowly change the industry’s tide.
“This is a great inspiration and a sign that even indigenous Ugandans can start, own and manage enterprises like banks,’ he adds carrying himself with confidence, emphasised by his ultra-modern office sitting on the bank’s headquarters at the Mapera Complex.
Founded in 1983 as a credit institution by the Uganda Catholic Lay Apostolate, the bank is an actualisation of the dream of the Late Archbishop Joseph Kiwanuka, whose savings and credit society, Obwavu Mpologoma, is the predecessor of the current bank.
The bank now boasts of a customer base of 1.3 million, served in 59 branches across Uganda.
Starting in 1985 as a rural development trust offering credit services, it attained commercial bank status in 1993, and today employs over 1,700 people, with an asset base of over Shs1 trillion.
Besides its 130 ATMs countrywide, the bank has future plans of rolling out mobile banking, codenamed CenteMobile, which will enable customers transact using phones anywhere.
According to Mr Kasi, Uganda’s low banking penetration which stands at over 75 per cent is a result of the country’s low levels of saving coupled with the history of banks and credit institutions collapsing.
The latter, according to Mr Kasi has been a key issue that has over time eroded people’s confidence in the banking sector.
“However, Mr Kasi says, ‘the confidence is slowly returning, boosted by campaigns that seek to make the banking a pro people industry”
The confidence is slowly having an impact as a few credit institutions have graduated from micro-deposit taking institutions (MDIs) to commercial banks.
As MDIs graduate into commercial banks they are able to widen the industry’s scope creating a number of services including forex trading and telegraphic transfers among other services.
The MDI Act bars institutions that fall in this category to conduct some of the services mentioned above.
Kasi at a glance.
Mr Kasi graduated with a First Class Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) from Makerere University in 1992. He worked in Bank of Uganda’s commercial bank supervision department for eight years, before moving to Finca Uganda as chief finance officer.
In the eight years he worked at Finca, he rose through the ranks becoming the institution’s managing director.
He made remarkable achievements at Finca contributing to the institution’s becoming the first MDI in the country.
Mr Kasi also holds of an MBA from the University of New Castle in Australia, and he is a Fellow of Chartered Certified Accountants of the UK.
A Rotarian and an old boy of St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Mr Kasi also worked as a financial controller for a commercial bank in Rwanda.